At 6:05 p. m. on Wednesday, August 1, 2007, the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi in Minneapolis collapsed. Thirteen people were killed.
Thirteen. On Lammas Eve.
Of many rivers, it is said that they require a life every year. The Mississippi, our “strong brown god” (Tom Eliot) takes many more than that. Last year, here in the metro alone, it was 17.
In the old days, they say, they used to offer to rivers. Nowadays, we mostly don't. But the sacrifices continue, as they will while ever the world endures. Willing or unwilling, they offer themselves, because sacrifice is in the nature of things.
Down by the Mississippi, there's a circle under the cottonwoods where the witches used to dance.
Technically, the riverflats belonged to the Army Corps of Engineers, but by night those woods belonged to the gayboys. And the witches.
It was the old cruising beach. In Minneapolis the Mississippi Valley is a green vein of wildness pulsing through the heart of the city. You had to negotiate a steep path down the side of the bluff to get to the flats. The police left it alone. By day you could swim there naked, with the glass towers of downtown hovering above the treeline. By night you'd hear the quiet encounters, the moans of ecstasy, and every now and then, the sound of drums and chanting.